Mileva was born in Titel in Vojvodina, from a Serbian family. During her early years at university, she became an aquaitance of Nikola Tesla as a mathematics student. In 1896 she entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic, as the only female student. Einstein started his studies in the same year. Einstein and Marić fell in love, had a child, Lieserl, and married on January 6, 1903.
After their marriage, Mileva sacrified her professional goals, helping Einstein's career instead. Mileva entered Einstein's life in a crucial period of his scientific achievements. Einstein and Marić had two sons and a daughter; their daughter Lieserl, born before their marriage, is variously said to have been adopted, and to have died in childhood: her actual fate is unknown. Hans Albert, their older son, became a professor in hydraulic engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. The other son was psychotic, and Mileva cared for him until she died in 1948.
The winter semester of 1897 to 1898 Mileva spent in Heidelberg. She was fascinated with a lecture about the relationship between the velocity of a molecule and the distance traversed by it between collisions, and wrote about it to Einstein. This was a topic relevant in Einstein's studies of Brownian motion, discussed in one of his famous three papers published in 1905.
Einstein admired Mileva's intellectual independence and ambitions. He once said that he was lucky to find Mileva, "a creature who is my equal and who is strong and independent as I am".
The extent of Mileva's contribution to Einstein's work is controversial. According to Evan Harris Walker, a physicist, the basic ideas for relativity came from Mileva. Senta Troemel-Ploetz, a German linguist, says that the ideas may have been Albert's, but Mileva did the mathematics. On the other hand, John Stachel, keeper of Albert's letters, says that Mileva was little more than a sounding board. The case for Mileva as co-genius mostly depends on letters in which Albert referred to "our" theory and "our" work and on a divorce agreement in which Albert promised her his Nobel Prize money. Biographer Abram Joffe claims to have seen an original manuscript for the theory of relativity which was signed, "Einstein-Maric".
Life and love had an unequal effect in lives of Einstein and Mileva as man and woman, and as scientists. Einstein left her for another woman and Mileva spent the rest of her life struggling to support herself and her children, including a psychotic son.